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NASCAR to consider ways to limit contact between teams, suspended personnel

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NASCAR will examine if there is more it can do to limit the contact suspended individuals, particularly crew chiefs, have with their teams on race weekends.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, said Monday on “The Morning Drive” that even if the sanctioning body barred suspended crew chiefs from having contact with their team at the track, it would be “very difficult to police.’’

The question was asked on the SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show after Martin Truex Jr. stated last week that his team would stay in touch with suspended crew chief Cole Pearn via FaceTime, chat and other electronic means last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.

NASCAR suspended Pearn for one event after a roof flap violation was discovered with the Furniture Row Racing car in inspection before the Atlanta race. The team stated it planned to appeal and had Pearn’s suspension deferred. The team dropped its appeal last week after the Las Vegas race, and Pearn’s suspension was enforced at Phoenix.

Section 12.7.d of the Sprint Cup Rule Book states: “In general a Member who is suspended is not eligible to participate in person in any NASCAR-sanctioned activity, nor to enter restricted areas of an Event (e.g.; garage, pits, spotter stand, victory lane, etc.) in which the competition or related activities take place.’’

O’Donnell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that officials will examine that policy.

“The old policy of ‘You’re suspended, and you can’t be there’ has probably served its time,’’ O’Donnell said. “As we go forward now, obviously we never want to have to suspend someone, we’re going to have look at the technology.

“It’s very difficult to police, but you could have almost a no-contact rule. That would be hard to police, but we could put that in place. It is something we’re looking at. We wanted to see how Phoenix went, and we’ll kind of evaluate what teams are doing with all the technologies that they have in place and see what we can and can’t monitor on a fair manner and go from there.

“A suspension should be that. It shouldn’t allow someone just to crew chief a car from a different location.’’

Crew chiefs have been known to be at the track even while suspended. In 2007, Tony Eury Jr., then crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., sat atop a motorhome parked overlooking the backstretch at New Hampshire Motor Speedway while serving a suspension. Others have been at tracks but in less obvious ways.

In 2013, Mike Helton, NASCAR President at the time, told The Sporting News that NASCAR did not plan to change its rules on teams communicating with suspended personnel not at the track.

“They can’t have their hands on it if they’re not in the garage,” Helton told The Sporting News. “We get the fact that in today’s world of technology and social media and all the opportunities (for communicating) that their input could still be utilized.

“We didn’t suspend them from going to the race shops anyway. They can still be part of the preparation work and getting ready for the race.”

Austin Theriault not medically cleared by NASCAR to race at Kansas

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Austin Theriault announced Thursday morning he has not been medically cleared by NASCAR to compete in this weekend’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway after his involvement in a wreck in Monday’s race at Talladega.

Theriault, 25, competes for Rick Ware Racing and was set to drive its No. 52 Chevrolet this weekend. Theriault said Garrett Smithley will take his place.

A NASCAR spokesperson said its policy is to not discuss a competitor’s medical information.

A spokesperson for Rick Ware Racing told NBC Sports all info on Theriault would be released by the driver on social media or by NASCAR. The team said “we expect to have Austin back in the car very soon.”

The native of Fort Kent, Maine, has missed races due to medical issues before.

In 2015, while racing part-time for Brad Keselowski Racing in the Truck Series, he suffered a 10% compression fracture in his back in a wreck at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after his HANS device broke.

Theriault missed several races before returning in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Since 2015 he has made five Cup starts, three Xfinity starts and four Truck Series starts.

Updated entry lists for Kansas Speedway’s playoff weekend

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The NASCAR playoffs continue this weekend with the second visit of the year to Kansas Speedway.

The Cup Series holds its second elimination race as the playoff field will be cut to eight drivers.

After a week off, the Xfinity Series will open its second playoff round.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for both races.

Cup – Hollywood Casino 400 (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

There are 40 cars entered.

Parker Kligerman is entered in Gaunt Brothers Racing’s No. 96 Toyota.

Reed Sorenson is listed for Premium Motorsports’ No. 27 Chevrolet.

Austin Theriault  was originally entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 52 car. Theriault announced Thursday morning he had not been cleared by NASCAR to compete Saturday following his wreck in Monday’s Cup race at Talladega and that Garrett Smithley would take his place.

Chase Elliott won this race last year over Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson. Brad Keselowski won the May race over Alex Bowman and Erik Jones.

Click here for the updated entry list.

Xfinity – Kansas Lottery 300 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC)

There are 39 entries.

Ryan Truex is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Ross Chastain is entered in Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 Chevrolet. It’ll be his fifth start with the team this season.

Harrison Burton is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota for the seventh time this season.

Bobby Earnhardt, the oldest son of Kerry Earnhardt, is entered in MBM Motorsports’ No. 66 Toyota. It will be his fifth career start and first since the Texas playoff race last year.

Joe Nemechek is now entered in Mike Harmon Racing’s No. 74 Chevrolet

Dillon Bassett is now entered in DGM Racing’s No. 92 Chevrolet

John Hunter Nemechek won this race last year over Daniel Hemric and Elliott Sadler.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Harrison Burton to drive Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Xfinity car full-time next year

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Harrison Burton will drive Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Xfinity car full-time in 2020, the team announced Thursday morning.

Burton, the son of NBC Sports analysts Jeff Burton, will succeed Christopher Bell in the No. 20.

Burton competes full-time in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He is set to make his seventh start in JGR’s No. 18 Xfinity car this Saturday at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

“Next year is going to be a really cool opportunity for me because I grew up watching my dad race in the Xfinity Series, Burton said in a press release. “Making my first start at Bristol this year was really surreal. I remember being a little kid and watching (Jeff Burton) race there and now, I will have the opportunity to compete for the Xfinity Series championship next year.

“On top of that I’ve got Dex Imaging continuing their support of me for a majority of races next season. That’s really cool because I’ve had them as a sponsor since I was 13 and to bring them from pro-late models all the way to the Xfinity Series is pretty wild. I want to finish this season strong, but I’m excited to get 2020 started. My time with JGR this season will really help me because I’ve already gotten to know so many people there and it’s such a great team and organization. They have a long history of helping to develop drivers and this is big for the next step in my career.”

In his six Xfinity starts, Burton has three top 10s and a best finish of fourth at Iowa Speedway.

In 35 Truck Series starts since 2016, Burton has 11 top fives and 17 top-10 finishes. This year he has seven top fives and 10 top 10s. He and teammate Todd Gilliland both failed to make the playoffs.

“As Harrison (Burton) moves up to the next level of his career, we’re happy to have him join JGR fulltime and go behind the wheel of the No. 20 Supra,” said Steve DeSouza, Executive Vice President of Xfinity Series and Development for Joe Gibbs Racing in a press release. “Harrison has continued to show progress this season in his limited starts and I know that will only continue to develop with more seat time while contending for the Xfinity Series championship.”

The crew chief for the No. 20 will be announced at a later time.

JTG Daugherty Racing’s No. 47 hauler experiences fire on way to Kansas

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JTG Daugherty Racing announced on social media Thursday morning that the hauler for Ryan Preece‘s No. 47 Chevrolet experienced a fire on its way to Kansas Speedway for this weekend’s Cup race.

In a statement, team owner Tad Geschickter said both its hauler drivers were “okay.”

He said the team is “assessing the damage to our trailer and race cars and will have more information as it becomes available.”

More: Kaulig Racing hauler involved in accident on way to Kansas